Donald Taylor “Don” Ritchie has spent five decades looking out the window of their small home near the Australian cliff Gap. This cliff offers a beautiful view, but it is not only beautiful landscape attracted this man.
Don Ritchie’s window-watching had a far greater purpose. Since 1964 he has saved at least 160 lives, although his family claims the number is closer to 400.
This calm Australian has always had the same approach – slowly get out of the house, and spoke to the man or woman in distress. After establishing basic communication, always asked them the same thing:
“Why don’t you come over for a cup of tea, or a beer, if you’d like one?”
A modest and quiet man, Don did not want fame. He did not like to brag nor to talk about it, but did reveal that one survivor gave him a picture of angel with the rays of the sun and the simple message “An angel who walks among us”. So Don was nicknamed “Angel of the Gap.” Don Ritchie, who was described as ‘a modest man who did not court celebrity or praise’, said that he was all too aware that any publicity could attract more depressed and disturbed people, however he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2006 for his services to suicide prevention.
At the time Don said, “Never be afraid to speak to those who you feel are in need. Always remember the power of the simple smile, a helping hand, a listening ear and a kind word. My ambition has always been to just get them away from the edge, to buy them time, to give them the opportunity to reflect and give them the chance to realize things might look better the next morning” he said. “You just can’t sit there and watch them, you’ve got to try and save them” even though he believed that ‘‘people will always come here. I don’t think it will ever stop”.
“My ambition has always been to just get them away from the edge, to buy them time, to give them the opportunity to reflect and give them the chance to realize that things might look better the next morning,”
“You just can’t sit there and watch them,” he added. “You’ve got to try and save them.”
Don Ritchie died on 13 May 2012, age 86. Mr Ritchie’s daughter, Sue, said her father enjoyed his ocean view, but was equally determined to watch out for troubled souls.
“He was a great mixture of strength and compassion… an everyday person who did an extraordinary thing for many people that saved their lives, without any want of recognition,” she added.